Percent Complete?

Issue 2 and Volume 105.

The following true story was submitted by Power Engineering reader Ron Maniscalco, P.E., with Xenergy in Burlington, Mass. He has since left the company referred to in the story, but the project is still under construction.

I am currently working on a large wastewater plant near Atlanta. Last Friday we submitted our 60 percent complete electrical package to the owner. We have been working very hard on this submittal. Six of us have been working 70 plus hours a week for the last month to finish this submittal. Finally, we printed our plans and were ready to go the bar, have a drink and then go to sleep.

That was until our supervisor walks up to me and says, “Ron, I have a submittal meeting in 2 hours. We need to have our percent complete done for that meeting.”

“Well, this was our 60 percent submittal,” I naively replied, “so I guess we are at 60 percent complete.”

In his fatherly way, he rebuffed my comment with, “No, no, just because it is a 60 percent submittal doesn’t mean that the electrical package is 60 percent complete.”

“Oh. I see,” I said, knowing full well that this was not the answer he wanted. “Let me think,” I added as I pondered aloud for another suitable answer. “The six of us have worked overtime for four weeks. We have finished the lighting layout, fixtures schedules, power loads calculations, and conduit and wire sizing. All that is left is circuiting the devices. So I would say we’re 75 percent complete.”

“NO, NO, NO!” my frustrated supervisor exclaimed, shaking his head violently. “You can’t be more than 60 percent complete on a 60 percent submittal.”

“Okay. 50 percent?” I timidly replied.

“No, that’s still too high!”


“Thirty percent, that’s better,” he said with some sense of resolution. “Perfect, now write that down so I can hand that out at the meeting.”

I walked back to my cubical, sat down and grabbed a pad of engineering paper. On the top of it I wrote the project name and date, then finally “Electrical Package Submittal 30 Percent Complete” and handed it to my supervisor.

He looked at it and said, “What is this?”

“The Percent Complete, just what you asked for,” I replied, confused.

“You don’t understand. You can’t give a round number. They’ll think you made it up.”

“But we did make it up!”

“That is why you have to back it up with a percent complete for each of the submitted drawings and then take the average,” he finally clarified.

“But there are more than 40 drawings in this submittal,” I protested.

“Yes, and you have less than two hours to do it.”

“Okay,” I said, half perplexed and half irate.

I went to my calculator and typed “3.14159,” then “3.14159” and “y to the x,” which yields 36.46. That would be our percent complete.

Then, in a spreadsheet I typed in all 40-plus drawing numbers and titles. Next to them I typed in bogus percent complete numbers. At the bottom I wrote “Electrical Package Percent Complete.” In the last cell I typed “36.46” and printed it out.

This whole effort lasted one-half hour, but I waited until 10 minutes before his meeting to give him the printout. He smilingly took the sheet and said thanks.

I walked backed to my cubical and silently counted “One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thou……..”

“Ron! Some of these drawing percent completes are too high. I have marked them up and I need this in 10 minutes.” The floor shook beneath his fast-paced march to my cubicle.

“No problem,” I said.

I changed the numbers on the spreadsheet and made printouts for the meetings. Of course, the bottom line did not change. But that figure was unimportant anyway.

Editor’s note: Corporate communications has evolved to the point where it seems the highest and most common use of e-mail is the dissemination of jokes and humor stories to business acquaintances around the world. Power Engineering has collected a number of such communications from many anonymous e-mail sources and will present them in this space for your enjoyment. We welcome your contributions of engineering, technology or business related humorous pieces to [email protected], but please do not send copyrighted material.